Telemark cattle are unique in both their appearance and history.
They are a Norwegian breed and they are the country’s oldest surviving breed! Telemark cattle was standardized as a breed as far back as 1856 and they are known as either the Telemark or Telemarkfe.
A dual-purpose breed, they were first officially exhibited in Kviteseid in Norway. They have since been crossed with mountain breeds and since the breed's foundation, they became really popular throughout Norway. The breed soon became regarded as a national symbol in Norway, with many farmers keeping at least one Telemark cow in their herd.
That was until the interest in the Telemark breed declined and by the 1980’s the breed was listed as rare with only between 200-300 animals remaining. This led to various conservation efforts being put in place to preserve the breed. By 2006, populations had increased slightly to around 400 animals and now, there are an estimated 275 cattle remaining in 81 herds in total. These animals are mainly found in their native regions in southeastern Norway.
Uses and Characteristics -
A very hardy and strong animal, the Telemark cattle breed are also known for their ability to adapt to almost all climates and mountainous regions, specifically.
They are noted as being good grazing animals and are very agile, which allows them to travel rough terrains in search of food. They are also small to medium in size, which enables them to utilise scrub areas for grazing.
A dual-purpose animal, historically Telemark cattle were raised for both milk and meat purposes. Their meat is of an excellent quality and is tender and well marbled, though is not available on a widespread basis due to small population numbers.
Cows also have excellent milk yields and their milk is of extremely high quality. This is why it is mainly used in cheese production. One producer even makes ice-cream from Telemark milk. The majority of all Telemark cattle milk produced is sold to distributors, who mix it with milk from other breeds to sell on a mass scale.
As mentioned, they are small to medium in size and are a very hardy breed. They are probably best known for their colouration, which is a red brindle-marked colour with a white stripe along the back from the head to tail. The rest of the body should also be white, bar the head which should be dappled red. Some grey and black-sided variations have also been reported, though are not as sought-after.
They are also a horned breed, though some hornless individuals DO exist. At full maturity, cows can weigh anything up to 500kgs, with bulls also weighing no more than 500kgs.
A breed with less than 275 animals remaining and under increasing pressure due to the importation of other continental breeds into Norway, thankfully the Telemark cattle breed survives to this day and hopefully, it survives for centuries more. They are truly beautiful!
Main Picture source - Nordgen